Prison wardens are stressed – Hamunyela

An audit report on Namibia’s correctional facilities has revealed that a whopping 86% of short-term offenders and 50% of long-term offenders are not rehabilitated in prison, and leave without the necessary tools to lead honest, crime-free lives.

22 October 2021 | Local News

JEMIMA BEUKES







WINDHOEK

Prison workers are put under immense psychological pressure, with only about 100 psychologists and social workers available for the 4 300 inmates around the country.

An audit report on the overcrowding of correctional facilities raised the curtain on the struggles behind bars, and how inmates - especially those with short sentences - leave prison without being rehabilitated.

Commissioner General Raphael Tuhafeni Hamunyela admitted that it is a struggle to both find and retain skilled psychologists, and on top of this, existing staff are tasked with training the counsellors on how to work with criminals.

“It is the truth. The truth is the truth. We do not have enough of these people [psychologists] and I do not know when we are going to have enough. We are not even at half of what is required.

“Today, officers are so sick, getting stressed, getting depressed because of the workload. We are supposed to have a certain ratio of offenders to an officer, but we cannot manage that. Imagine a person is supposed to deal with 40 offenders but instead there are now 120. As a result, they see themselves as failures and that is stressing them,” he said.

According to him, this is one of the major issues which contributes to the failure to rehabilitate inmates who come through their facilities.

No rehabilitation

The audit report pointed out that of 91 short-term offenders, 78 - or 86% - were not enrolled in formal programmes, although they were recommended to attend.

It was also found that 50% of long-term offenders were released back into society without their criminal behaviours being addressed.

“We focused mostly on the long-serving offenders who have maybe committed serious crimes, but those who have been [stealing] sweets and what, sometimes they go home without services,” he said.

Despite the country’s correctional services having introduced various programmes to rehabilitate short-term offenders, they remain difficult to maintain.

Hamunyela added that they have received funding to recruit 20 or 30 staff to complement the existing officials, who currently total 2 700.

Sleeping on floors

Meanwhile, the audit revealed that at some correctional facilities, inmates sleep on the floor because of the lack of beds, bedding and mattresses.

“Observations done at correctional facilities visited revealed the lack of maintenance as a challenge. The majority of cells had non-functional toilets, broken windows, inadequate bedding and an overall lack of hygiene.

“The majority of offenders were found to be wearing their own private clothes,” it said.

However, according to Hamunyela, facilities are not overcrowded. Instead, these scenarios are created by a lack of planning and proper communication when prisoners are transferred.

“The Namibian correctional facilities have capacity of 5 500 and since time immemorial to date, our local capacity is about 4 300. I am not denying overcrowding and offenders sleeping on the floor in facilities at Grootfontein, Oluno and Omaruru. At those facilities, it is a matter of management.

“We are also not inviting the police to bring the people,” he said.

“The police do not make an appointment to say we are bringing 100 people tomorrow. You find a truck outside, it is offenders coming from Oshakati or whatever region,” he said.

Oluno correctional facility was reported to be the most overcrowded prison in the country.

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